Sia Partners buys Middle East management consultancy ShiftIN Partners

19 December 2017

ShiftIN Partners, a Middle East based management consultancy, has joined forces with Sia Partners, an international consulting firm with 950 consultants globally. As part of the deal, Sia Partners’ roughly doubles its Middle East presence, taking the size of its on the ground team to 40 consultants, better enabling it to compete with the market’s larger players. 

Established in 2012, ShiftIN is a strategy execution firm with three offices in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh) and one in Portugal (Lisbon). The consultancy was co-founded by four senior advisors (Amancio Torres, Carlos Guevara, Rafael Lemaitre, and Roberto Wyszkowski) who previously were working for Palladium Group in the firm’s Dubai branch. ShiftIN’s CEO, Amancio Torres, served between 2008 and 2011 as Palladium Group’s Middle East Managing Director, formerly he led Sponsor Management Consulting, a leading consulting firm in Spain and Portugal that was acquired by Palladium Group over a decade ago.

On Sunday, Torres unveiled that ShiftIN’s partner team have decided to merge into Sia Partners, one of the globe’s larger management consulting firms. Founded in 1999, in Paris, Sia Partners today has around 950 consultants across 20 offices, generating revenues of close to €140 million. The firm has in particular in recent years seen explosive growth: in 2015, when the consultancy refreshed its visual identity to support is growth strategy, Sia Partners still had just under 600 consultants.

Sia Partners managed to outperform the consulting market’s average through a combination of organic growth, including expansion into new markets, notably the US, Canada and Asia Pacific, and buy-and-build, including the acquisition of Molten in the UK (September 2016) and Sourcing France in home country France (March 2015)*. 

Sia Partners buys Middle East management consultancy ShiftIN Partners

Adding to Middle East status

The firm’s latest acquisition sees the consultancy push deeper into the growing Middle East and North Africa (MENA) consulting market – recent data shows that the consulting industry of the GCC grew by 9% last year to a value of $2.7 billion. The addition of ShiftIN will add around $5 million in turnover to Sia Partners’ Middle East base, taking the combined total of both firms to around of $9 million, generated by a joint team of approximately 40 consultants.

Sia Partners first set foot in the Middle East with an office in Dubai, and today the advisory company has four offices in the Gulf region: in Abu Dhabi, Dubai (both in the United Arab Emirates), in Doha, Qatar and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The advisory is active in a host of sectors, with a focus on financial services and energy & utilities. “Our presence in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is focused on these two vital sectors. In the UAE, we are active across a range of sectors, from financial services on one end of the spectrum to oil and gas on the other,” said Pierre-Louis Brenac, Sia’s Managing Partner for the Middle East region, in an interview with Khaleej Times. 

The consultancy is among others helping utility companies in the region with electricity and water-desalination, banks with operating model design and regulatory implementations, oil & gas majors with complex programme and project management, as well as providing strategy and operational support to large corporations including blue-chip companies. Globally, the company works closely with behemoths such as Engie (formerly known as GDF Suez) and Électricité de France (EDF). 

“With this acquisition, we are strengthening our positioning in the Middle East and diversifying our client portfolio in the region, enabling us to become a major player in the Middle East,” said Matthieu Courtecuisse, founder and CEO of Sia Partners. The move will, he added, also significantly deepen the service offerings of both consultancies across four main industries: Energy, Government, Transportation & Logistics, and Financial Services. ShiftIN currently supports around fifty public and private clients in the implementation of their strategy and in their transformation projects, with the majority of clients active in these industries.

The integration sees ShiftIN co-founders Amancio Torres, Carlos Guevara, Rafael Lemaitre and Roberto Wyszkowski become part of the Sia Partners management team for the Middle East region. “This is a natural fit for two independent consulting firms that share common entrepreneurial values,” said Torres. 

Aancio Torres, Carlos Guevara, Rafael Lemaitre, and Roberto Wyszkowski

Next phase of growth

The quartet will work closely with Brenac to prepare the consultancy for the next phase of its growth in the Middle East. “Thanks to this integration, we will be able to achieve our ambitious goals in the region and double our workforce within two years,” stated Brenac, who has been with the French origin consultancy since 2001. At a global level, Courtecuisse added that the main growth target is to by 2020 achieve a "critical size" in each of the markets in which the firm operates. "We will then be more than 1,500 consultants.”

Similar to elsewhere across the globe, however, Sia Partners faces stiff competition. In the area of strategy & operations, the consultancy competes with the well-known strategy consultants, or the strategy arms of the Big Four, such as Monitor Deloitte or Strategy& (which recently added two partners in the Middle East), while in the more functional domains, it is up against the likes of Accenture and the Big Four, or specialists such as Delta Partners (focus on telecom and media). In terms of size, Sia Partners still is significantly smaller than the aforementioned rivals, Brenac nevertheless believes the consultancy can successfully differentiate its services from its peers. “We endeavour to bring something different to the table. Our clients have liked our work since we offer a very different approach to their problems.” 

Earlier this year, McKinsey & Company also bolstered its footprint in the Middle East through an acquisition, buying Saudi Arabia-based Elixir in a move that added 140 consultants in Jeddah and Riyadh. 

* Previous deals closed by Sia Partners include the acquisition of EDS Consulting Services France (formerly A.T. Kearney Interactive) in 2008; Axelboss, the management consulting arm of the company Valtech; OTC Americas, the New York branch of the OTC Conseil group (both in 2010); and the international management consulting arm of the Investance in 2013.

Israeli cybersecurity consultancy Sygnia picked up by Temasek

29 October 2018

Israeli cybersecurity consulting startup Sygnia has been bought by Singaporean stste investment firm Temasek in a deal reportedly worth $250 million.

Describing itself as a provider of ‘military-grade’ cybersecurity, the Tel Aviv-based start-up Sygnia provides organisations worldwide with high-level cross-sector cyber resilience consulting and incident response support services: “We apply technological supremacy, digital combat experience, and a business-driven mindset to cyber security, enabling organizations to excel in the age of cyber.”

Co-founded in 2015 by current CEO Shachar Levy and launched by Team8, an Israeli cybersecurity ‘think-tank’ come incubator set up by former leaders of the Israeli Defense Force’s fabled technology and intelligence division Unit 8200, the cybersecurity start-up will now come under the ownership of Singaporean sovereign investment agency Temasek, which holds upwards of S$308 billion in assets.

While financial details of the deal remain undisclosed, sources reportedly close to the matter have placed the sale at $250 million, with Sygnia apparently not having received any further funding beyond its original $4.3 million seed investment. For Temasek, the deal marks a growing taste for cybersecurity investments, with the fund having led a $60 million Series B funding round closed in June for fellow Team 8 start-up Claroty, a cyberdefence software producer focused on factories and industrial plants.Israeli cybersecurity consultancy Sygnia picked up by TemasekAccording to the announcement from Sygnia, the company will continue to operate as an independent entity while pursuing collaborations with Temasek and its portfolio of companies, with Levy slated to remain at the helm and fellow co-founders Ariel Smoler and Ami Kor staying on in key roles. Team8 co-founder and CEO Nadav Zafrir will also hold on to his role as Sygnia chair, with both outfits to continue their collaboration.

“Sygnia has built a powerful combination of professional proficiency, methodologies, technologies, and a culture of excellence, which is critically needed in confronting the growing complexity of cyber,” Zafrir said. “Team8 will remain committed to Sygnia's success and we will continue to collaborate and work closely together.”

Speaking on Sygnia’s acquisition, Levy said; “Aligning with Temasek will strengthen our capability to provide end to end strategic support to organisations in meeting the specter of cyber threats, and allow us to accelerate building our global reach. I am incredibly proud of our team members - who have made this company into what it is. We will remain committed to the highest standards of professional excellence, client focus, decisiveness and speed.”

The purchase comes at a time when not only are there growing concerns for a shortfall in cyber preparedness around the world, and particularly in Southeast Asia, but also as tensions continue to simmer across the Middle East between long-time rivals – with state-sponsored cyber-attacks on real world infrastructure seen as a genuine threat. Recently, Accenture’s cybersecurity division outlined the rising global threat from agents in Iran, while Saudi Arabia has been busy ramping up its cyber-warfare capabilities. In Israel, the country's start-up sector is increasingly turning its attention to cybersecurity.